Thoughts of a small publisher - Value Add Games

We are a small publishing company from Slovenia. We primarily focus on family and smaller board games in which we are always trying to add some additional value. We also make custom board games for corporate clients, which make great business gifts. We have our own team of game designers, graphic designers and illustrators. This allows us to have complete control of the game design process from the start to the very finish. With this blog, we plan to share our experiences we have picked up in board game and graphic designing, illustrating and publishing. We hope that both newcomers and experts in the industry will find this blog informative and interesting.
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Family game

Value Add Games
Slovenia
Ljubljana
Ljubljana
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Designing a board game is a challenge in itself. There are a lot of aspects one must consider: Target audience, development costs, interweaving art and game mechanics and of course making a fun game. However, when one designs a family game there are additional aspects one must take into consideration.
In this blog we will describe what we have learned while designing our family game. The game we will use in our example is one of our family games, WolfWalkers: The Board game.

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Development process
When we started designing WolfWalkers the Board game we had to keep in mind that the game should be fun for both the kids and the parents. If one or the other party are not having fun playing your game, it will be played way less. It is the same with family movies – they are primarily aimed at children with their themes, but their subtext allows older generations to enjoy it in other ways. Thus, the theme of the game must be appealing to both adults and kids. The game we were working on is based on WolfWalkers, a family animated film about a young apprentice hunter and her father on a mission to wipe out the last wolf pack terrorizing Kilkenny. But her life is changed when she meets a girl in the forest who has the ability to transform into a wolf by night (IMDB).

Taking kids into the account
Second thing that we think should be taken into account is rules complexity. The game must not be too easy for adults and too difficult for kids.
Kids can be really smart and can easily memorize a lot of rules and follow them to the dot. However, they usually have a hard time making a decision in a game that has a lot of choices (e.g. large number of actions).
To address the lack of long-term planning with the kids, we decided that the game should reward good moves on a turn-to-turn basis and not give a huge advantage to a person who develops a long-term strategy in the competitive mode of the game. Our game has a roll to move mechanic. The player does not get to decide what kind of action they will do, since it is decided by a die roll. However, they still have some choices, and in most cases, they only need to choose the best move of those presented.

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Movement example from the game’s rulebook.
Roll the die and then move your standee to one of the symbols that match the one
shown on the die. You cannot pass the guards.


Rules for the game
We also had to consider that a lot of parents are not board game enthusiasts and will probably not internalize rules of the game, especially if it is not played on a weekly basis.
Therefore, we think that the rules of a family game should be light in order to reach the largest audience possible. They should include a lot of large images and examples of play and setup in order to minimize the possibility of misinterpretation and to make them easy to reference and remember.

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Setup example from the game’s rulebook.


A clear image on how the board should be at the start of the game with arrows pointing at various components, defining and explaining them.
We also think that guidelines from the previous section can be somewhat ignored when it comes to cooperative games because in that case, parents can help their kids with making good moves. However, we still suggest that parents let their kids decide on their own and not become the dreaded “alpha player” who makes decisions for everyone at the table.

Difficulty adjustment
If the family grows accustomed to the rules, we thought there should be an option to make the game more complex. In our game, we have divided the game into various game modes that range from easy, for the youngest players to more complex, which include more complex rules. We’ve also included additional game modes, challenges and achievements to make the game more complex and/or difficult. This way, every family can individually tailor their experience based on their skill level – kids can progressively increase the complexity of the game, while the parents can also explore harder challenges on their own.

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Various game modes found in the game’s rulebook.
The number of paws indicates the difficulty of the mode.


Abstraction
Third is abstraction. Up to the age of 12 most kids have troubles with abstract concepts that they cannot see, touch or hear. This is also why certain school subjects are only introduced after this age (like chemistry or physics). For this reason, we thought that our game should include a minimal number of abstract concepts. Actions should be related to simple concepts that can be easily understood. In our case – Collecting runes, Moving the forest and town etc.

Graphic design
Graphic design and art were also taken into consideration. When designing various symbols (actions, currency) the player should have no second thoughts to what the symbol relates to. We believe it isn't just a good practice for family games but board games in general, because a good graphic design can greatly ease even the most difficult rules.

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In the rules, there are additional symbols that help you quickly determine what kind of a move you can make on your turn.


Kids are also drawn to colorful images with bright colors. A lot of times it is easier to entice a kid to play a game that has pretty characters and animals. In our game, we had a good head start on this, since the art, which was based on the film, is already beautiful and very engaging. When it comes to components, we have used character stands instead of pawns. This way, kids can pick their favorite character, much like they would in picking a character in Monopoly, where everyone has a favorite.

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Character stands found in the game


With Cartoon Saloon we have also worked on creating a custom game board. This was also made to both reduce abstraction (since you can see your character moving through the woods and city) and make the art appealing to both kids and parents.

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Only when one looks up close do they see the amount of tiny details, found on the game board


So, to sum it up all of our discoveries during the creation of our family board game:
1. Use a theme to which any generation can relate to
2. Minimize rule complexity, number of choices in a turn and long term planning
3. Add the possibility to adjust the difficulty so the family can tailor their experience to their liking
4. Minimize abstract concepts, ideas, art and graphic design

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Value Add Games
More about us: https://valueaddgames.com/en/
Our shop: https://shop.valueaddgames.com/en/
WolfWalkers Games and Puzzles Landing page: https://valueaddgames.com/wolfwalkers/
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